Thursday, June 10, 2010

How to use Weasel Words to Boondoggle the Truth

I signed up some time ago to have Meetup send me notices of any groups in the Hillsborough, Florida county that I might be interested in. A lot of this is fluff, like "Dog Walkers Group of Bradenton" and other things.

But this morning, I got this gem of a turd in my inbox from the group called "Hillsborough Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation" by one Karen Jaroch. Who's previous groups it looks like were running the 9-12 groups inspired by Glenn Beck, which inspired people to show up at town hall meetings I attended and have intelligent, thoughtful discourse about why healthcare reform was a bad thing.

If by "intelligent, thoughtful discourse" you mean "screaming for 90 minutes straight and hurling racist calls like 'Get a job Oprah' to black people" - then sure.

But "Hillsborough Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation" - that sounds important!

And then my words fell on the word "sound."

Where had I seen that word used before? Usually in the phrase "sound science", usually meaning "I know that 99.9% of all climatologists agree that pumping carbon dioxide into the air is bad, and usually the 0.1% that oppose that notion are paid by the oil industry - but I support 'sound science' which means you ignore actual scientists because its inconvenient."

But I read on to see what the group was about. And man, what a bunch of weasel words it's filled with:

HiCOST - Hillsborough Citizens Organized for Sound Transportation is a group dedicated to save Hillsborough County from a 14% sales tax increase which will devastate business opportunity in the county for a boondoggle which will do nothing to relieve traffic congestion.

I'd like to grant a special award for the greatest number of weasel words in one paragraph! Come on down and take your prize, Ms. Jaroch!

We start at the beginning with the words "HiCost" - just in case you didn't get the message that, look out - something bad is coming for your wallet!

Oh, and then there's my favorite: " Hillsborough County from a 14% sales tax increase..."

Now, when I showed this to people I know, they went "OMG! A 14% sales tax increase? That's pretty nuts!"

Then they all paused. "Wait - I thought it's a 1% sales tax increase. From 7% to 8%."

That's right. It is. Let's so some math and show how Ms. Jaroch turns 1% into 14%.

Now, if we're talking money, and I say "It's going to cost you 1 penny more per every dollar so we can do something", most people will say "Oh. OK. 1 penny per dollar. That's a 1% increase."

BUT! You're not using weasel math! See, you have to take the sales tax by itself, which is 7%. Suppose you have 7 apples, and I give you 1 more. Now you have 8 shiny red apples.

1 apple out of 7 is 14% of the apples. So going from 7 to 8 apples is a 14% increase in apples. 7 + 1 = 8. 1 / 7 = 0.14.

In the same way, Ms. Jaroch uses her weasel math that if you look at just the sales tax, you're increasing it by 14%. And this is done on purpose, because 14% increase on sales tax is a big, scary number that makes people think you're going from either 7% to 14%, or 7% to a whopping 21% sales tax.

But let's move on from math, cause that's boring.

"...will devastate business opportunity in the county..." Devastate! That's right - when the light rail is built, it won't just impact businesses by some percentage one way or another. Or make it easier for people to reach the shopping areas. No devastation! Fire will rain down from the skies and utterly destroy businesses!

"...for a boondoggle which will do nothing to relieve traffic congestion." I don't know. I kind of like boondoggles. I boondoggled my wife last night, and she *loved* it.

Now, I know a boondoggle is something that's supposed to waste money. Like, building a rail system that cuts through Tampa, and provides fast transport to everyone from Brandon to MacDill to South Tampa all the way out to Town 'N Country.

You could go and read through the HART rapid transit plan located right here in this PDF file.

I used to live in Salt Lake City. Notice I didn't say I was born there - I moved and lived there for a few years. And people just like Ms. Jaroch, spreading misinformation and fears of the apocolypse marched and told people this was a waste of money and time and it would destroy everything.

And they built it anyway. And people rode it. For the first week, because it was a novelty. Then they realized "Wait - I can park here, and instead of a 60 minute drive into work, it's a 10 minute drive to the local light rail station, leave my car, and a 20 minute ride downtown."

It increased business along the rail stops. You could get off, walk to the local shopping centers, carry on. The Mormon church would buy the entire light rail every 6 months so everybody could ride free because it cut down on traffic and gas.

Now they're expanding the rail lines last I heard.

I might use Ms. Jaroch's weasel tactics against her. Ask why she supports more oil being burned so we have BP soaking our beautiful beaches with their black tarry filth as dead birds wash up. Or even question why she wants to support terrorists, who are mostly funded by every time an American fills up. It's not like the oil being pumped offshore is sold only to Americans anyway - it's sold worldwide, and we let oil companies get richer, terrorists get more money - but hey, Ms. Jaroch can save her "14% sales tax increase" - you know, going from 7% to 8%, paying an extra penny on the dollar, so we can have less cars on the road, less oil being burned, less money in the hands of people who hate us for our freedoms.

But then, I'd be a weasel.

Light rail works. I've seen it for myself. And all the fear mongering in the world won't change that fact.

1 comment:

eye-shuh said...

LOL I love that you broke down her weasel math. XD

I think people still complain about light rail in Seattle, and that city is all about public transportation. People are weird.